SOCIAL SECURITY - CRS Report Says Traditional Benefit Could Vanish For Some

For Immediate Release:

April 6, 2005

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By Keith Koffler and Mark Wegner

National Journal's Congress Daily

A Congressional Research Service report requested by House Ways and Means ranking member Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., says future high-wage earners who opt for President Bush's plan for personal retirement accounts could see their traditional Social Security benefits eliminated. These workers would instead rely solely on the assets in their accounts for their Social Security income, according to the report, which is based on certain assumptions that Bush has not proposed. The report assumes the accounts are combined with a plan to move from wage to price-indexing of Social Security benefits. The president has indicated that at least some version of that idea should be considered, but has not proposed it. The study also relies on an assumption of rising account contribution limits that it says were implied during a White House Social Security news briefing. The report also assumes -- as requested by Rangel -- that all workers retire at 65 instead of 67, when benefits would be somewhat higher. "As more details of the plan become available, these estimates may need to be revised," the report states. The White House did not respond by presstime to a request for comment.

On Capitol Hill today, House Majority Whip Blunt said the House has not set a timetable for floor action on Social Security. "I do know that we are in active discussions with the Senate and at some point we may have to decide if we want a bill on the floor even if the Senate can't move it forward," Blunt said. "Certainly we hope to move forward with the Senate to get something done this year." But House Minority Leader Pelosi said Bush's approach to revamping Social Security is completely opposite that of the 1983 bipartisan commission that she said extended the program's solvency by six decades. "I don't think that's what [the late President] Ronald Reagan and [late House Speaker] Tip O'Neill had in mind when they set in motion an initiative to build the Social Security trust fund," she said. House Minority Whip Hoyer said Democrats support using the 1983 commission model to build consensus for enacting measures that would further extend Social Security's solvency.CongressDailyPM